A social philosophy based on Catholic philosophic principles whose leading proponent was Heinrich Pesch, SJ, the famous German economist. Rejecting both socialism and individualism, solidarism finds in the nature of society and man a principle of order for the economy as a whole. Society is a moral organism presenting not the unity of oneness but the union of the many. The economy is an organic-moral unity of many autonomous economic units bound together by the goal and the authority of society. It is a community of free citizens striving for the common welfare of all. The variety, freedom, particular aims, autonomy, and self-responsibility of the individuals and private enterprise are to be encouraged and furthered and also are to be subordinated to the fulfillment of the common task. The state is not a necessary evil, but a necessary good. Its function is to direct, supervise, stimulate, and restrain the activities of the economic units to the extent that the common welfare requires it.
In solidarism the individual is not a mere member of the whole or a mere means by which a state-designated goal is achieved, but he is a person for whom all the activities of all the members of society and of the state are directed. The profit motive is not rejected but merely restrained so that it aids rather than hinders the attainment of the goal of the economy. More generically, selfinterest is recognized as a legitimate, natural instinct, a force for good, which must, however, be ordered so that both the individual and community are satisfied.
Solidarism recognizes the importance of freedom in the economic sphere. While it rejects a compulsory planned economy, it also disavows absolute freedom. It fears that unlimited, unbridled freedom will hinder the achieving of the goal of the economy unless it is subject to the demands of justice. Only the acceptance of authority develops and guarantees that degree of justice required by freedom. Solidarism's freedom is the freedom of order.
Both the individualistic, irresponsible, absolute concept of private property and the socialistic concept of state ownership are rejected. Solidarism justifies private ownership and limits it by invoking the principle that "the goods of the earth should serve all mankind." In the last resort the state has the duty and the right to see that this is achieved.
Just as solidarism is a middle way between socialism and individualism, it stresses the establishment in society of groups that will take their place between the individuals and the state. These are organizations embracing all who are engaged in a particular profession or performing a particular service for the nation. All performing the same function in society, though divided by different personal interests, belong to the same group. These functional groups are organs of society that operate as the representatives of the group and as self-governing authorities for the particular profession of industry in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity. While not essential to the political society, in the sense that society could not exist without them, they are necessary for its perfection. The particular form that these functional groups may adopt will vary according to the economic, social, and political conditions of the nation.
[r. e. mulcahy]